Prescriptions REQUIRED for Infant Formula? Say WHAT?

Someone from the Target Nurse-in facebook page that was created as a meeting place for the recent nation-wide protest that happened last week, made a suggestion. The suggestion, one I’m still trying to wrap my brain around, was that infant formula be available only via prescription, and this person not only believed formula be available only through a doctor’s order, but has already initiated a process to get this in place — she said she was in the process of getting a petition together to begin gathering signatures. Now, I won’t immediately go into my ideas on this one since to be fair, I’m sure she had all the best intentions in the world.

I’m sure she’s a nursing mother, or someone who has nursed one child or more and knows the benefits of breastfeeding and the bond it creates. That’s fair to say, I’m sure. Good for her! Maybe she knows that infant formula is unfairly marketed to women, often in lower socio-ecomic statuses, communities Of Color, and that its ingredients are no match for mother’s milk. Yes, this is all possible. As the staunch breastfeeding advocate she is, it is not unreasonable to assume this.

Here are just a few other details I can imagine.

She is probably a white woman. A heterosexual white woman married to a heterosexual white man. She is probably a stay-at-home mother, and her formally educated husband, no doubt, goes to work everyday — well, Monday through Friday at least to you know, bring home the bacon. Every morning he probably pulls his sports car, maybe a BMW, from their three-car garage attached to their nice big house that sits inside of a gated community — probably in the hills, and drives to his job. On the way he makes several cell phone calls to discuss things like rates, finances — interest, before arriving at the office where he sits behind a computer all day and drinks wine and expensive meals at lunch time, engaging a corporate business partner on ways to increase profits and productivity. Probably.

This beautifully crafted white family with a stay-at-home mother and a formally educated husband probably have people helping out who have English as a second language, probably have Brown skin or darker, and come on a weekly or more frequent basis to mow the lawn, and help the stay-at-home mother tend to her children, leaving their own in the care of others. The beautiful white family eats dinner together — a meal not prepared by the stay-at-home mother. Oh no. She is there on the sidelines — in the background of whoever it is making this dinner. She may be off sewing, nursing her children in another part of the nice big house, out shopping or who knows, maybe she’s at a breastfeeding support group, where all of the other women — the other stay-at-home mothers whose husbands are also at work, sit in a circle and talk about how wonderful it is they can nurse their babies. They’ve never had any issues with a baby not being able to latch, low milk production, or any other social or health barriers. Great!

This couple probably has top-of-the-line health insurance — the best one you can think of, and an extremely small co-pay, if one at all. If there’s ever an emergency trip to the hospital they have no problem paying a deductible, or even GETTING to the location of course, since their fancy, fast car usually parked in their three-car garage attached to their nice big house inside of the gated community that sits on a hill, can be used at any time. They need not worry about waiting for a specific time of day or a schedule for the bus, walk long distances to the pharmacy, call and wait for an expensive taxi, or worry about the high cost of gas, since funding for all of these are taken care of by the labor of those workers in a rank lower than the husband’s, and others — those who more than likely cannot afford the nice big house in a gated community, sports car that would get them anywhere at any time — even to the doctor’s office, top-of-the-line health insurance — the best one you can think of, the money for the co-pay or deductible, just the same as this beautiful white family with a stay-at-home mom, her formally educated husband who has a great job, top-of-the-line health insurance — yes, the best you can think of, with little or no co-pay, and lives inside of a nice big house in a gated community in the hills, with a fancy, fast car parked inside of their freakin’ three-car garage.

16 thoughts on “Prescriptions REQUIRED for Infant Formula? Say WHAT?

  1. As a white woman who EBF her 10 month old daughter (I work 40+ hours a week thank you) I happen to agree with the white woman you accuse of being a SAHM privileged mom. Your accusations confuse me. IMO if you are pro Breastfeeding what the hell does that have to do with your bank account or skin color? Breastfeeding isnt easy at the beginning or for the length of time that its required and women give up because formula is so readily available. Its to hard blah blah blah! Come on ladies put your big girl panties on. Stop being racist.

  2. I would have almost been on your side that this woman had gone a little far with the Rx thing, but you shot it in the foot when you assume that all woman that are successful at breastfeeding and want to share that with other people, albeit in a fairly extreme sense are rich white women. I personally am a poor white woman that is going to college online, a family of four with one on the way in a 2 bedroom house, while we barely make enough not to be on welfare and share a car. I wish that there was a way to share my experience which was not easy or carefree with no payments…it actually included daily trips to a hospital 30 miles away worrying about gas and so forth. You assume so much and become so racist about it that I can’t find your point at all.

  3. Acquanda- Unfortunately the interesting thread on your piece was deleted from the Target Nurse In so I came here to talk about it. This is the only piece I’ve read from your blog, but I don’t understand the point of your blog post one bit. You began talking about the issue of formula prescriptions which would have been an interesting post and then you turned it into this absolutely racist stereotype that very few people actually fit into. Why did you insist on going into all of those details!? Not all breastfeeding advocates have this privilege or can relate to any of the specific stereotypes you bring up. The fact that you do not see this as racist is unbelievable.

    If your point is that people who believe formula should only be available by a doctors prescription are privileged and do not understand the way other people live then okay say that. But what you have said is that people who believe formula should only be available by a doctors prescription are white, wealthy, have a three car garage, and have live-in help or cooks or something. I sincerely doubt that the woman who thought of the formula thing fits into your imaginative stereotype!

    I personally think that you should think about what you are saying to your readers. Stay on topic, too! Let’s talk formula prescriptions NOT how much you hate the mythical family that you described.

  4. This is not a stereotyping post or a racist post at all, and in the effort to save myself just a hint of time, I’ll post my comment from earlier Racism?? Really Where? Usually when folks cry racism they often fail to realize the point of the post — which is to look OUTSIDE of your own privilege! Suggesting infant formula be given only by prescription fails to recognize the MILLIONS of folks in this country who, for reasons we already know about — do not even have access to any type of medical care, funding for co-pays, insurance, jobs, etc!! Also it does NOT look at the way racism, classism, etc and they role they have on a woman’s access and ability to nurse her child. If anything this post speaks AGAINST racism!

  5. Not surprising the post was deleted by the Target Nurse-In admin.

    I think people believe this is hateful because it critiques injustice through the my lens and speaks against whiteness and privilege. If I were to leave the two, I would most likely be looked upon as someone enlightened. NO! I’m not saying EVERYONE who would lobby for infant formula to be available through prescription only drives a BMW, has a fancy house, etc. But what I AM saying is that whiteness and privilege would fuel this injustice that would weigh HIGHLY against poor people and communities of color, and NOT recognizing all of our privilege (even my own) only fuels the problem and adds to the high rate of infant and maternal mortality among our communities

  6. Oh gosh. The whole time I was reading i was thinking, “please don’t let this be a black lady writing this” then i get down to the comments and see it is. Why does it have to be about race all the darn time. ****! Let me tell you. I am a BLACK woman, married to a man who makes less than 30,000 a year, one daughter, two dogs, make our own meals, babysit my own baby, do my own chores, live in a poorly made townhouse on a military base, and I’m pro breastfeeding. Wait…wait…don’t start thinking, “this girl must think she’s white then”. NO. I know I’m black. Can’t forget it anytime I look in the mirror. Everyone has their reasons, reasons a doctor may or may not see.Whether you want to breastfeed your kid or not should be your choice just like whatever you color shirt you wanna wear today is your choice.

    Opinions are like buttholes my dear. this was a stinky one to put online to let everyone see.

  7. EVERYONE should be more breastfeeding savy. I understand that.

    “and people of color (NON WHITE) would feel this as a serious injustice! FACT!” No. NOT FACT! You, my dear, can not speak for everyone.

    The place i believe you erorr is to bring race into a situation that doesn’t deserve it. You shouldn’t have assumed so far. No one can get pass the audacity you had to put race in your article to the extreme to get to the point of anything you say. That was a negative rant that should never had been.

  8. Guess I’m not understanding your point on “please don’t let this be a black lady writing this”

    You are entitled to your opinion, Mrs. African American, but it really makes me question your insight to health and social disparities inside of the breastfeeding realm. Breastfeeding is an arena infused with politics and injustice the same as any other area of society, and poor people and people of color (NON WHITE) would feel this as a serious injustice! FACT!

    There’s a reason Black women are breastfeeding at the lowest rates, why Latina farmworkers are feeling many effects of contaminated breastmilk from environmental pollutants along with Native Americans and our [Black] women are breastfeeding at the lowest rates. It would be more helpful if you looked outside of your own experiences and looked at a larger picture. Breastfeeding is not a fix-all button, as there are many other systems of injustice to dismantle to come to very healthy outcomes for everyone (racism is one of them)

    Suggesting infant formula be available via prescription only is UNBELIEVABLY a suggestioin of a privileged life, and I don’t know about you but in the country this would devastate those who are considered marginalized, and it’s probably a non-person of color, not a person who has not faced hardship with unemployment, drs insurance, mobilization and countless other ways that would hinder ones access!

  9. There have been and ARE STILL scholars that have written texts dealing with THESE politics in this arena! And I’m sure they don’t claim to speak for everyone, but I can assure you there IS enough evidence there that speaks for a large portion of the people.

    My work in the breastfeeding realm (and most any other realm I place my precious, valuable energy, is dealing with marginalized groups in order to properly represent these underrepresented populations). I have studied (in formal institutions and have also read and researched informally — on my own these types of politics). I have also taken part in, read about, and have even added my own reasoning, analysis and thoughts to this arena!

    Everyone is up in arms about this article, yet I have failed to see anything that brings a true substantive critique of the underlying message in this post (the intersections of race and privilege among breastfeeding women — who has access and who doesn’t — who can make such a suggestion and who can’t).

    Most who have been so quick to term me a racist and tell me I’m fueled by hatred have brought words brought on by their emotions, and just because someone does not FEEL this could be what is happening does not make it so.

    I would absolutely be willing to listen and have no problem re- examining my position on race inside of the arena, but will only take that into account when I have heard true concrete criticisms along with well-researched information!

  10. This is in reply to me earlier. i have not read the other comments.

    Thats because 3/5 of your post is negative on a white race. if you added more, thats what would be notice. The negative is all that can be seen. Yes you may have good thougts and ideas, however, a lil less would of helped tremendously.

  11. Hi Acquanda,

    I haven’t posted a comment in a while, but am still reading and enjoying your blog.

    I can totally understand where you are coming from. I am a “poor” white woman now (we have nothing to spare, and receive assistance from the State here in Germany where I live, though my husband works full time, but really we lack for nothing important so I don’t think of myself as poor, just broke), but I come from a background of priveledge. We never had any help at home while I was living there, but after I left home, my mother did indeed begin to employ some lovely brown people to do work she preferred not to in order to give her more time to tend to her many, many animals and ride her horses. Just so you know where I’m coming from.

    I read your piece, and was not offended by it. I think many of your assumptions may have been fair. Then again they may have been completely wrong, but I’m not sure that matters. There are many white stay at home mothers like me who are NOT wealthy, but who are passionate about breastfeeding. I think there is a difference, though, between being a not-wealthy white woman and a “poor” or broke woman of colour. It is still easier to be poor and white than poor and black, and THAT’S a fact. The whole thing of having to take buses long distances to find a pharmacy, for example is not a problem that would exist as often in poor white neighborhoods. This is the kind of thing about which we white people are often clueless, no matter how Liberal and caring (or poor) we fancy ourselves to be. White people are generally unaware of the paucity of basic services, such as banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. in poor black neighborhoods. The point here being that even if the woman who made this Rx suggestion is poor (and I agree with you that it is more likely she is not), her experience of poverty would probably differ from the poverty experienced by people of colour. So I, for one, am grateful to you for pointing out things that hadn’t occurred to me.

    I had also thought that the Rx for formula idea might be a good one, and since breastmilk is free, I hadn’t considered the problems such a policy would pose for women without easy access to medical services. Women who actually do HAVE to work, as opposed to some of the wealthy (by any thinking person’s standard) white women I have known who have told me they have to work as they drive off from their $300,000 home in one of the 2 or 3 $40,000 cars they own dressed in one of their numerous $100 dresses. When you have to work full-time, I think exclusively breasfeeding is totally unrealistic. I nursed both my boys for 2 years, and had an awesome milk supply, but I was never able to successfully pump more than an ounce or two. I can’t imagine how a woman working full-time could successfully pump enough milk, and I’ve always been suspicious of women who claim to have done so. It is often portrayed on TV, as the white woman pumps her breasts at work while conducting important business calls, etc., and I now find myself wondering how many working poor black women have jobs that allow them to take pumping breaks. . .

    Acquanda, there was nothing racist in this blog post that I can see. Of course not all white people are like the ones you describe. But plenty are, and plenty more aspire to be. And even those of us with the best intentions simply don’t have the experience or perspective that you have, and so it does not occur to us that there may be a flaw in our grand ideas. Thank you for pointing out the flaws in this one, and I’m sorry more people weren’t able to see past your scene-setting to hear your main point. Maybe it would help if in the future there were less scene-setting, and more information directly relating to your main point. But I like your writing and the way it challenges me to think past my defensiveness about being white and see things from a different perspective. Keep up the good work!

    Your reader in Germany,
    Kimberly (AKA MalchowMama)

    1. Kimberly, I LOVE your response and Acquanda I am LOVING the level of uncomfortable I was reading your post… making me angry, making me think, making me critically evaluate my own perspectives is fantastic and helps me stretch and grow… growth and stretching are uncomfortable…but really really important. The ‘angry’ thing was a knee-jerk reaction and genuinely mis-placed. Thank you for the chance to work through that…turn around and evaluate it and then see it for what it was. I am mid-range to high on the ‘privileged scale’ (I think I just made that up) so my perspective is often far too comfortable for my own good and I’m so grateful for the challenge your blog will be as I am now a new follower :)

  12. I’m so glad to hear from you, Kimberly!

    Thank you so much for you comment!! There was a VERY negative response to this post — WOW!! It was pretty unbelievable. I found it very interesting that many people considered this quite hateful, but failed to see the way they support it everyday! But that’s OK.

    Yes, I have been told that I should have been a bit clearer in what I’m trying to get across (setting the stage), but this writing was one that proved a point — WE DO NOT SEE WHAT IS IN FRONT OF US! We are trained to overlook things.

    Many folks were offended by this blunt critique of the ways society values whiteness and believe it is hateful, but it in fact is not. As I have said in previous posts — especially the one dealing with idealizing white women, it is a clear indication of who is valued in society and who is not (inside and outside of breast feeding). This sets the stage for other areas of access as well including those other privileges — who is in the home, who is not, etc.

    Yes, the scene setting was one many people say they cannot not relate to, but my point was to set the stage to examine what society values and who is more likely to have this (just access overall)– and who this would affect most. No, not everyone who lobbies for breast feeding is seen to have such a lavish lifestyle, of course not! I do not by any means live an affluent life. There is a reason for the the numerous health disparities among Communities of color and why there is such discrepancies in breastfeeding outcomes as well.

    Folks seem to not be aware of the role race plays in access, like you said. Communities of color would face the brunt of such decisions, since on the color scale the further removed one is from whiteness is what determines lots of things. It’s a fact — so our Black and Brown communities would face brunt of such a law, and coincidently are the ones who also face the most lack of access overall. Hmmmm who would have thought??!!

    I’m not trying to say these communities do not have agency or have not been challenging these systems, or to put them in a victimized position –I would never give anyone the satisfaction of saying I did that!! Because many POC have this, of course!

    Guess I should not be surprised at the outburst from this post, and believe it or not I consider this progress because I have to believe I have played a part in helping people see, or begin to see the ways race, racism, class and privilege, etc. affect everything since in my opinion it is very close to moot to be such an breastfeeding advocate without working to dismantle these injustices.

    Again thank you so much for your comment and for also letting me know you are still reading! I’m so happy you are!!

  13. Yes, many of us have different ways we express ourselves when working towards a goal, and this is the way I have chosen to do so. While I will not remove, retract, or regret this post or my point, I do want to thank you for reading and commenting on my material, Mrs. African American. It is always nice when someone actually take the time to read and let me know their thoughts, whether they are aligned with mine or not — I always appreciate different perspectives. I also want to tell you that it is always awesome to see a Black woman breastfeeding! You are making more of a difference than you probably know and are bound to impact others!

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